Take a deep breath.
Take it aaaallllll in.
Right now, as I type this, all of our teams are at a standstill. The rosters of our teams are (mostly) as they were this year. I don’t do this often, but I’m going to share where I am coming from when the trades start tomorrow.
I spent an entire year getting to know my teams. I spent countless hours watching these players build chemistry and got quite accustomed to it. I watched relationships grow among players. Some guys came back to do what they’ve always done (Steven Stamkos/Marty St. Louis/Vinny Lecavalier) and others were coming together as they never had before (Tomas Fleischmann/Stephen Weiss/Kris Versteeg). I watched blood, bruises, concussions, overtime celebrations, shoot out losses, and Lord Stanley’s cup being raised by a new group of kids. That’s hockey for ya.
And if you’re anything like me, tomorrow is going to sting. I became emotionally attached and invested in the group of guys I call my home team (even though they technically are the 3rd closest team to my geographic location). I went to (give or take) 30 practices spanning from September to May. I got to know them and, whether I intended it or not, they got to know me. I stood in the same spot for most of those practices and I usually had a sign in hand. In fact, I’m pretty sure they came to expect some sort of written communication by the time playoffs rolled around. Every practice, I let those guys know how I felt and they knew that I loved them and no matter what changes happen between tomorrow and December 1st (which is the actual free agent deadline), I love my team…But make no mistake, there will be changes.
For those who will have their rosters ripped apart, I sympathize with you. Free Agent Frenzy Day is never fun but is a necessary evil to the sport we love so much. So what will you do when you find out your top players will be donning different jerseys next?
1) TAKE A DEEP BREATH! I absolutely am one of those people who acts like the world is ending because “my players” get traded/picked up by a different team. We need to keep in mind a) they are still alive, b) they are still playing hockey, and c) humans created this thing called television that helps us to rest assured the formers still remain true.
2) Assess the needs of your team/teams. No, no one wanted to see Mike Smith leave the Lightning last year, but Tampa Bay (thought they) had a great goalie in Dwayne Roloson and Phoenix needed a netminder to fill the hole Ilya Bryzgalov left when he went to Philadelphia. So Bolts fans, think about it, wasn’t Mike Smith better showcased in Phoenix than 2nd fiddle to Rolo? If you take into consideration the role your boy is playing on his new team, you will realize he is getting a better chance to grow as a player. (Perfect example: Max Talbot… sorry Pens fans!)
3) Get to know your new guys! Fact: I did not like Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Matt Read, or Sean Couturier going into the 2011-2012 season. I didn’t dislike any of them, but I was not going to automatically like them because they were now Flyers. My love for Sean and Matt started during training camp when they stopped and actually talked to fans and only grew when I saw their hard work. My love of Simmonds started with his classy response to the “banana incident” in Toronto and was solidified when he took a puck to the mouth in warm ups, put on a full cage, and scored two goals during a game against the Buffalo Sabres February 16th. Schenn… well, that didn’t start til his goal in the Winter Classic which, to this date, is the loudest I have EVER whooped and hollered for a goal. I know it takes time, but getting to know the new guys helps to ease the pain of losing the oldies. I searched the stats on Troy Brouwer and after seeing his size, skill, and a few Youtube videos I was more at ease with his acquisition. (SIDE NOTE: I realize none of these guys were picked up through free agency, but they were new guys nonetheless)
4) If all else fails, jump ship. I get it, Nash fans. This guy may have been your one reason to support the Columbus Blue Jackets. If someone (most likely more than one person) takes his place and you breathed until you hyperventilated, you took into consideration how much more successful Nash will be on (insert team), and you just don’t like his replacement, you are allowed to become a fan of his new team. There is no law saying you must remain in love with CBJ (although I would ask you to reconsider based on the bromance between Derrick Brassard and Marc Methot). You are also allowed to continue to love CBJ and add (insert team) to your list of top teams… even if they’re rivals! I currently consider myself married to the Flyers, dating the Caps, and cheating on both occasionally with the Blues… as well as players on most of the other teams in the NHL at times. It can happen.
Whatever path you choose to take starting tomorrow, just know I will be praying for you and am always there as a virtual shoulder to cry on.